Brood of time
Being echoes from a Distant Spring
What would two literary geniuses have in common especially when they come from entirely different social backgrounds and societies and a different point in time? Many, as this unique analysis of Shakespeare and Tolstoy shows.
The book has two parts; the first is on Leo Tolstoy and the second, on William Shakespeare and runs to a total of 470 pages.
The author analyses these literary figures through their personalities and their respective works: through their internal turmoil and torment, as moral beings wrestling with the vicissitudes and inequities of life. These literary giants’ consciences and actions are examined in minute detail from the perspective of the Law of Kamma as it is understood in Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism to be precise.
The stories that these writers told bespeak of their own trials and tribulations, foibles and insecurities of life, as well as their struggle with social issues of the day. Whereas Tolstoy, being an aristocrat, was prepared to speak his mind loud and clear about the injustices of his society and be ridiculed for his views and his own actions, in contrast Shakespeare wasn’t prepared to do so largely because of his relatively low social status which obliged him to suck up to the aristocratic and royal classes. It was a matter of earning a living for Shakespeare at the pleasure of the powers-that-were otherwise he won’t have survived and prospered financially.
There are interesting instances where the author highlights similarities between the two historical literary figures and explained why, Tolstoy disdained Shakespeare, for example, for his inability to speak his mind and the hypocrisy of his works’ characters! Also, surprisingly to many, Tolstoy even disdained his early works, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, in the twilight of his life... Why?
The analyses present such an interesting insight into the lives of these two great literary giants as to keep one not only entertained but intrigued as to how kamma had wrought their lives and how kamma molded them so; how kamma has made Tolstoy so different from his antecedent self, Shakespeare (if one accepts that Tolstoy was a chip of the old English block) but that the genius of his pen remained as finely tuned and accomplished as he was in his previous life as the celebrated English Bard!
Who would be interested in this book?
There would be broadly two categories of people, viz the religious earnest seekers who would like to see how the law of kamma operates and seek out examples of famous personalities so that they can satisfy themselves that there is indeed, a law of kamma and that the law of cause and effect actually has application. Intriguingly profound. Then, there is the other group of people who are perplexed by the apparent inconsistencies in the drama of their favourite writers' lives and the lives of their works'characters. The latter are obviously serious students of literature who aspire to see these literary giants in a different light; there being enough criticism already of the usual kind which has become trite and unexciting and so this new angle is a whiff of fresh air in a stale environment.
There could perhaps be a 3rd group of people interested in this book, the student of history who delights in seeing the historical aspects of the writers cast in a fresh light; for, history could be recast or re-interpreted by hindsight knowledge which may appear even wise, and here, it is the case of using not the usual measures or devices known to scholarship and literature, but instead from religion, without losing any of the drama and intensity of the exercise.
Indeed, it is a fascinating, warm, kind and compassionate re-appraisal of the Western world's two great literary personalities. Understanding them in this new light makes so much sense for us all as theirs are but a reflection of our own lives, how they, too, are shaped by the continuous stream of consciousness flowing through the Brood of Time. Except in our own cases, the echoes of that distant spring haven't appeared as some famous personalities for all to see and learn from!